More with Dopirak

With the freshly laid chalk of a new season barely dry on either base line, Brian Dopirak was already staring down the possibility of being out for the year. Thankfully, the news turned out to be a little better.

The popular 22-year-old first baseman (who as recent as last spring was heralded as the Cubs top prospect by Baseball America) broke a metatarsal bone in his left foot rounding second base in his season opener with AA West Tennessee on April 6.

Dopirak took a sharp turn toward third and planted his foot before feeling a popping sound and then being lifted for a pinch-runner.

The metatarsus area consists of the five long bones in a person's foot, numbered in order from one to five. Dopirak broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot, more commonly referred to as "the pinky toe."

He recently underwent surgery in Chicago to repair the damage and figures to make no later than a mid-summer return to Double-A.

"I knew it wasn't good when I felt the pop," Dopirak said from his home in Florida, where he'll rest for the next several days before returning to Chicago for a follow-up. "I'm used to playing with pain. I can play hurt, but when I felt the pop in my foot, it suddenly felt a good five pounds heavier. I knew something wasn't good."

This is the first major injury in Dopirak's career. Drafted as a second-round pick out of high school in 2002, Dopirak had played in over 130 games each of the past two seasons entering ‘06. Even with a highly publicized down year at Daytona in 2005, he still garnered 507 at-bats – the third most in the Florida State League.

This spring, Dopirak garnered his first invitation to big league Spring Training, where he hit .355 in 17 games before being optioned back to minor league camp.

"All those guys took me underneath their wing," Dopirak said of his experience in big league camp. "Dusty and ‘Sarge' (Gary Matthews) were throwing their pointers in. All those guys just told me to be aggressive and to know what kind of hitter you are, whether you want to go deep in the count or get that first-ball fastball and try to hit it."

A graduate of Dunedin High School in Dunedin, Fla., Dopirak shares the same alma mater as childhood teammate Ryan Harvey and Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry. His injury was a blow to his teammates and coaches with the Diamond Jaxx.

"We wish Brian the best and hope he gets back as soon as possible," said his manager, Pat Listach. "But we're trying to develop Brian to be in the major leagues with Chicago and this is just a little bump in the road. He'll be fine."

After some rest in Florida, Dopirak expects to have the hard cast he's currently legging around removed and replaced by a soft boot just as he was wearing in the days immediately following the injury.

After that, it's back to Mesa for the start of his rehab program and if everything goes well there, back to West Tenn. All in all, the Cubs don't expect Dopirak to be sidelined for more than 6-8 weeks, Director of Player Development Oneri Fleita said earlier this week.

"This is the first time in my career that an injury happened," Dopirak said. "A lot of guys remind you that it's just a part of the game. Not many guys go all the way without an injury. I'll be back with that Double-A club before too long. Believe it, dude. Believe it."

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